Thursday, June 13, 2024

Indian Army Day and National Security in New Wars

By Lt Gen. VG Khandare(r)

“We fight to win and win with a knockout because there are no runners-up in war.”   

— General JJ Singh

Lt Gen. VG Khandare(r), Principal Advisor MoD

Armies have been in existence in some form or the other since ages, practically in every nation. Some of our leaders and their advisors were in a delusion that the Republic of India does not need an Army since India is a proponent of global peace. Some armchair strategists were highly opinionated that the era of conventional wars is over, this myth got shattered with the Russia- Ukraine military clash and with the HAMAS brutality inflicted on citizens of Israel which drew a heavy conventional military response on Gaza. The presence of a strong Army is mandatory as a deterrence for the adversaries and is a premium for any nation’s life insurance. It is an investment that only fools look upon as a liability.  All Governments need a legitimate entity in the form of its Army to safeguard the nation, its civil society, and the national interests, especially from external threats. There are numerous other Govt entities in the form of Police Forces at State and Central level. These are meant to ensure Internal Security, manning of International borders during peacetime and for fulfilling different roles falling under the ambit of policing.  The Indian Army enjoys a very high level of trust amongst the citizens. India is a civilization that celebrates her existence, therefore celebration of the achievements of the Indian Army is aligned to Indian ethos. Human beings and especially Indians need a reason to celebrate.

 Indian Army Day celebrations this year were in Lucknow. India celebrates Army Day every year, is an important statement, India as a nation should be celebrating Army Day, it should be a whole of national effort and not be left only to the Army alone to congratulate itself every year on 15 Jan. This is a vital psychological aspect for the understanding of the nation and also for the Army fraternity. By Indian tradition, it is the immediate extended family, relatives, friends and acquaintances who celebrate your existence and acknowledge your contribution or valued relationship. Such collectivism creates and strengthens bonds of friendship, unity and common focus. On special occasions, it is the collectivity that ensures connectivity. India is a land of festivals and festivities and the land of ceremonials and ceremonies. Armed Forces derive their human resource and psychology from the same society. Therefore, celebrations and remembrances are analogous to Indian ethos. In most of the nations worth mentioning the Civil Society acknowledges the contribution of the Armed Forces collectively and individually – publicly and privately.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Anil Chauhan, the Chief of the Army Staff (CAS), General Manoj Pande, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral R Hari Kumar and the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari laying wreaths ahead of Army Day which is celebrated on 15th January every year at the National War Memorial, in New Delhi on January 13, 2024.

India, a civilizational State with a remarkable history and heritage, aligns with global good. Indian image of a ‘Vishwa Guru’ and ‘Vishwamitr’ is aligned to the ancient heritage. Behavioral patterns of nations are based on some connections from the past or from the imposed ideologies of the invaders. Indian society has retained ancient traditions and celebrates the martial tradition on days like Vijayadashami or Dussehra; Shastra Puja is performed. Historically, there is significance of cleaning and displaying weapons and honoring the victorious warriors. This is a way of auditing one’s preparations during peacetime. Surviving civilizations learned the importance of being strong, contemporary and self-reliant in growth and security. Now India is refocussing on Atma Nirbharta after many centuries and is forging ahead to have its own solutions to its own problems. India has by choice not outsourced its national security to any collective body or organization as has been done by many nations in Europe or Asia. To be confident of protecting one’s own national interest implies having a strong Comprehensive National Power and Comprehensive National Security.  Army forms an important constituent of the National Strategic matrix.

As General Rodrigues, the ex-Chief of Army Staff queried the Indian intellectuals and media – ‘after all whose army is the Indian Army?’ The simple answer to a simple question is It is India’s Army’, created and maintained by the Indians and is for the Indians. Therefore, the celebration should be by the nation. What should the nation or its citizens do to acknowledge the contribution of their own Army? This is the conversation that needs to be widely generated. The Indian Army has already earned the respect of the citizens since 1947 the same cannot be said about the other entities which exist to secure internal security.  Civil-military fusion brings about a mutual respect. Therefore, more participation of civilians during Army Day celebrations is the most logical step expected. This year’s caption on the hoardings in Lucknow “Apni Sena ko Janen” or “Know your Army” is most suitable. It is the nation’s Army, it is your Army, it is our Army, have faith and trust in your Army and do everything to build and maintain our capabilities, capacity and cohesion. This is the duty or kartavya of the nation.

The quote ‘If India is to be great, Civil Military Fusion is the only way forward’ should be read as ‘Since India has to become great, Civil Military Fusion is the only way forward’.

Indians by nature especially due to the past enslavement and current social media awareness are quite politically conscious, increasingly participatory and vocal albeit without accountability. Indian military gets it human capital from the same society. A common and sensible sentiment is that Military personnel should not indulge in politics, Indian Army adheres to it. At the entry stage itself, the lesson is imparted that Indian Army and Politics will have only one relationship which is of mutual respect and non-interference.  Knowing politics and playing politics are two different things. Army personnel as citizens must be aware of global, national and local politics without getting into active politics. Pakistan Army and many other immediate and extended neighborhood Armies differ in this regard. Indian Army is apolitical with complete faith in the Indian Constitution. There is a difference between a political Army and a selfless nation-building Army. Nation-building is a right and a duty of every citizen, including military personnel. Indian Army knows and abides by the constitutional provisions. Our neighborhood has seen a number of military coups. The Indian military has an impeccable record of respecting democracy, an attitude of its own choice. There may be a one-off TRP-related media hype that must be dealt with severely against the media responsible for the slander. The Indian Army protects the national sovereignty under all conditions of hardship posed by difficult terrain, problems posed by difficult people, by complicated processes – relationships and not always at the borders. Despite that the Army goes by the strong belief ‘ I wish I had another life for my nation’. There are many living Vikram Batras in the Army who live by the premise ‘Yeh dil mangey more’ and all of them know that each one of the heroes do not get awarded or felicitated, but there is divine justice somewhere. Beyond the recognition in the form of awards, it is the recognition from civil society that is valued most by personnel in uniform. In the era of social media, news spreads fast when a soldier or the family is ill-treated or when the arrogance of people in power is publicly displayed – such behavior dents mutual trust. The same is applicable to military personnel who are expected to respect citizens. Mutual respect is vital for the nation to grow.

Freezing at Siachen Glacier, ‘Hello Papa melted his heart’                                      –  Truth of the Indian Army personnel and their families.

In the interest of national growth and security, it is imperative to develop Civil-Military Fusion on a fast track using a combination approach of institutional measures and evolution. An inclusive thought process and whole of nation approach is the only way to get there.  Cross-pollination is mandatory which implies that Indian military personnel should integrate well within the multiple Govt organs and civil society. The British had advocated segregation of Civil and military entities but we need integration. Ideal civil-military integration is essential in true democracies but is a real challenge.  In autocracies, the military dominates all organs of governments, and citizens hence civil-military fusion is easy to achieve. Staying aloof or being kept aloof and hoping that the nation will grow in prosperity and security cannot be considered as a winning strategy at all. Civil-military fraternities should neither shy away due to inefficiency, incompetence or insecurity nor should they indulge in showing each other down due to arrogance, misplaced superiority or myopic vision, all these are misnomers. Civil-military interaction for good causes like national growth -security, social-community well-being and commitment to national-global good is expected in true democracies. Turf battles once avoided, nations grow stronger. Mutual understanding is visible in those nations which follow conscription or compulsory military service. In India, since the conscription system is not followed it is imperative that more intense efforts are made to integrate better for the best civil-military fusion in national interest. Good practices of the pre-colonial and recent past which got obliterated need to be revisited e.g. military officers joined civil services purely on merit. There have been distinguished bureaucrats, diplomats and law enforcers after their first innings in the Armed Forces adding value to the governance system. Merit-based lateral induction is being tried out by the Govt, similar exercise for the military personnel joining the civil security ecosystem would do good to the nation. Many nations adhere to this concept. Efficiency and effectiveness based on knowledge, expertise and experience will improve the governance.  Optimization of human and revenue resources will be a natural outcome.

      Soldier-scientist-scholar combination of patriots can be the most productive outcome and the vital savior of the nation, in this era of new wars, where knowledge, technology, patriotism and collectivism play a major role.  Informed, wise and committed Humans in the loop are still relevant.

Army Veterans are a rich resource for nation-building as also for mentoring the current and new generation. They have a commitment that can be utilized to involve them in essential audit and citizen oversight over the governance and security mechanism. Currently, self-driven individual veterans are doing social good in their own way, there is no organizational initiative and support. The Army would do well to figure out a way to harness the veterans’ wisdom beyond matters military and channelize efforts toward social-national improvement, vulnerabilities, identification and risk mitigation.  Superficial conversations esp the spate of ceremonial seminars are seldom result-oriented. Think Tanks can bridge the civil-military perception gap. Initiate meaningful engagements of focussed conversations, concept papers and empowerment capsules through Think Tanks, Foundations, selfless veterans, Thought Leader groups, NGOs, media, consultancy, etc.

        Once a soldier – always a soldier. Wisdom lies in using his or her expertise, character, passion and commitment while in service, and even after retirement or release. Use their services as mentors rather than salespersons or fixers.

Alien and Colonial thought process and practices need a pragmatic review. Exclusivity and segregation are propagated by the invaders and colonial masters and the demeaning phrase ‘bloody civilians’ is passe. The British Army conspiratory tradition to segregate military and civil populations was focussed to their erstwhile colonies only. Back home in the UK, they have achieved excellent CIVIL-MILITARY integration. In India we need an incisive vision to evaluate the content, real intent and relevance of alien and colonial traditions. We must retain, dump or reform old traditions duly analyzed in our interest. Our adversaries benefit from our polarisation. India’s Army must retain good practices, borrow relevant practices from civil society, incorporate relevant lessons from history and shield itself from harmful practices to retain contemporary and futuristic relevance.

         The British not only destroyed us by exploiting our resources, they also destroyed our minds. Imperial powers strategized to enslave their colonies by exploiting the physical resources and degrading the intellectual capacity of the original inhabitants.

Continuous research and out of box thinking to achieve better nation-building solutions is relevant for the current and futuristic generations. Sub-standard in-house solutions propagated by vested interests at times lead to sub-optimal standards, inbreeding, resultant genetic defects and unaffordable costlier solutions; this happens at times due to incorrect decision-making. Our aim should be to achieve global standards. Being in sync with the national mood and at global standards is appropriate. This approach needs an attitudinal shift at all levels. Merely hoping for a change to happen is no strategy at all.

           Information is volatile, knowledge is dynamic and wisdom is stabilizing. Study, research and move to be relevant.  Reach the stage of wisdom.

Indian Army efforts to keep the citizens aware of and oriented towards its capabilities and compulsions are in the form of exhibitions, Tattoos, public displays of parades and ……….? Today technology provides us the capability to increase manifold outreach to civil society and make them aware of the new era warfare which is a grey zone unrestricted warfarewaged by our adversaries. Integrating citizens, academia especially youth towards cross-pollination of ideas, experiences and assessments is a mandatory requirement.

              Every citizen is like the cell of a human body, healthy and secure cells mean a healthy and secure body       ‘A State is like a human body with countless cells.’

Perception shaping wins Information Wars. Many battles are lost in Information Space. Conversely, despite having lost all wars, perception shaped by Pakistan, its people strongly and hilariously believe that they have defeated India in all the wars. This Pak cognitive domination is driven by and is well orchestrated by the Pak media, clerics, madrasas, school curriculum and gossip. India for many years had conceded the cognitive battlespace to external adversaries as well as to the internal anti-national elements. The dominance of the Information space using truthful content in near real-time is essential for maintaining the trust of the nation and is a winning formula. Military expertise of a different kind for the new wars can be created and utilized by modifying the human resource policies – it is a must but cannot be expected from mediocre minds. Convincing narrative and appropriate proliferation tools have to be specific to the demography, psyche and realities beyond classroom information. Army Day events and similar celebrations do have a major impact on perception shaping for enhancing self-esteem and motivating the population patriotically. The ultimate goal is to enhance national resilience internally and to create deterrence externally.

Misinformation and Disinformation as tools of war are not new – but most relevant today to destroy the internal cohesion of any nation thus degrading the national resilience.

New wars are more impactful in non-traditional domains.  Empowering citizens and nonmilitary segments of the nation involved in national security especially to counter non-traditional threats is possible only with the whole of nation approach which is the only war-winning decisive strategy. Army Day events do highlight the latest disruptive technologies. The fault lines must be highlighted to civil society giving a glimpse of the realities and complexities of the New Wars as also of the current realities. To achieve more citizen partnerships requires more awareness campaigns. There is much more at stake beyond the military hardware. China has Cyber – Information Warriors, Biological- Chemical Warriors and Maritime Militia Warriors.  Pak has suicide-seeking Jihadi warriors and radicalization driving Madarsas. There are other external powers – non-state actors, Deep States and such dangerous elements who are invisible economic warriors, political warriors, intellectual warriors and sleeper cells in India who degrade Indian Comprehensive National Power. A rapid realization has to dawn amongst the non-military segment of the nation that they are equally responsible for ensuring comprehensive national security. The acts of omission and commissions by citizens are as much a serious matter as those by uniformed fraternity. Corruption, radicalization, separatism, terrorism, incompetence, wastage etc are some issues that can be handled in civil society without any involvement of the Govt.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Anil Chauhan, the Chief of the Army Staff (CAS), General Manoj Pande, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral R Hari Kumar and the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari paying homage to the fallen heroes ahead of Army Day which is celebrated on 15th January every year at the National War Memorial, in New Delhi on January 13, 2024.
Wars are now beyond Armies or militaries – it is a complicated world, the weakest link in a nation will be under attack from known and unknown adversaries.

Citizens are unaware of the remote areas’ realities. Forward and remote areas sealed off by the British for their own interests are gradually opening up for tourism – albeit a bit too late. This is an ideal opportunity to collaborate and orientate civil society to beyond the border threats, forward area realities and their vulnerabilities. Display of forward battlefields, monuments and museums to civil society will be a good initiative. It needs to be incentivized.

  •  The Republic of Korea encashes on DMZ – forward area tourism. It is a major perception-shaping opportunity. Internally, the citizens of ROK get unified to the vision of a unified Korea while retaining the pragmatic view of North Korean nefarious intentions. No amount of patriotic literature or noise can shape perceptions compared to a visit to the North Korean tunnels under the DMZ.
  •  Israel motivates citizens’ visits to forward areas and to the Holocaust Museum. Israeli youth and Israel Defence Force personnel regularly visit the Holocaust Museum and stay aligned to the national focus- the visits get the students credit points in their academics.
History is relevant to remind us – never forget or forgive those who want you and your future generations to perish. The victor not only scripts the history but also creates a future narrative.

India is a land where many great wars and battles were fought, there are many battlefields from ancient; to medieval; to modern times. Each battlefield has its heroes and heroics with plenty of inspirational stories, our citizens especially the teachers, the taught, parents, administrators and leaders- simply put every citizen must internalize the experience Our global perception can be shaped through foreign tourists visiting forward areas with the true account of Indian achievements and the neighbors’ villainy being narrated. Army-led or supported initiatives can increase for carefully chosen and well-structured battlefield tours. We have a tremendous national heritage; our history did not commence by the Western calendar or in 1947 or in 1950. Intellectual security and strategic culture come from learning true history.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Anil Chauhan, the Chief of the Army Staff (CAS), General Manoj Pande, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral R Hari Kumar and the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari paying homage to the fallen heroes ahead of Army Day which is celebrated on 15th January every year at the National War Memorial, in New Delhi on January 13, 2024.

In new wars, internal cohesion is weakened by the adversary. Misinformation -disinformation if not guarded against would have a devastating impact on the military and society. There is no boundary between military and non-military targets. The weakest link is targeted and that happens to be the civil society component which is not strategically oriented. Such non-contact and non-kinetic targeting have deniability and non-attributability.  We have observed how within India in public conversation there is a constituency that is always anti-establishment and goes to the extent of speaking for the adversary- these are issues faced by all democracies.

“The enemy is not merely across the border. The enemy is all around us, in the form of corruption, poverty, illiteracy, and communal disharmony.” – General Bipin Rawat, Former Chief of Defence  Staff.

Implicitly, the whole nation has to be intensely and voluntarily involved in addressing all security issues. Vulnerability realization is generally missing, underplayed or manipulated. A participative approach beyond gender, class, creed, caste, race, religion, language, literacy, qualification, age, beliefs and profession is mandatory. There are nations which have a better performance record in whole of nation attitude, India can learn in this regard.

In the Army, the bulk of its personnel have been deeply involved in humanitarian assistance and disaster – rescue and relief, winning hearts and minds initiatives in regions that express dissatisfaction with civil administration and in many nation-building activities.  There is a national appetite to develop faster and in line with the national vision to achieve the status of a secure and developed nation in the next two decades or earlier. The nation’s expectations are high and rising. That is the national mood- the Army is also aligned.

      India is at a sweet spot, the next few decades are vital to grow fast and to be strong – use the human capital well, do not waste it because of its affordable abundance.

On January 15, every year, the nation commemorates the transfer of military power from the British military Commander in Chief to an Indian of independent India – a historic change in the military apex-level leadership resulting in the appointment of the first Indian Commander in Chief of the Indian Army — General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa.  India was breaking away from the shackles of the colonial legacy of multiple centuries in a gradual but sure way. On this day, in 1949, General Cariappa took over the command of the Indian Army from General Sir FRR Bucher, the last British Commander-in-Chief. Gen Cariappa graced the office from 15 January 1949 to 14 January 1953.

Born on 28 January 1899, in present-day Kodagu District, Field Marshal KM Cariappa, OBE was an outstanding Indian military officer. Post retirement from the Army the Govt most appropriately utilized his tremendous experience, commitment and caliber by appointing him as the Indian High Commissioner to Australia and New Zealand.   He led the Indian forces on the Western Front during the Indo-Pak War of 1947-48. He is one of the only two Indian Army officers to hold the rank of Field Marshal; the other being Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw. Both the Field Marshals are respected personalities in the country and specifically in the Army for their leadership qualities. While Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw was made a Field Marshal while he was in service but Field Marshal KM Cariappa was made the Field Marshal in 1986 which is 33 years post his retirement.

In the British Indian Army, young Cariappa was commissioned as a temporary First Lieutenant into the 2/88 Carnatic Infantry. Having moved in various regiments he was finally assigned to the RAJPUT Regiment. He had several firsts to his credit; the first Indian military officer to attend the Staff College Quetta; the first Indian to command a battalion and the first Indian C-in-C of the Indian Army.

Until 2022, the Army Day parade and other events were held at the Cariappa Parade ground (named after Field Marshal KM Cariappa) in Delhi Cantt where the Army Chief of the day used to preside over the proceedings.  In pursuance of Hon’ble PMs policy to extend the outreach to different parts of India, the 2023, Army Day Celebrations were held at Bengaluru. The obvious logic of taking the celebrations beyond Delhi is to make all parts and regions of the nation a part of the national security awareness. The Govt of the day has a clear focus of going to the people rather than making them come to the Govt. The era of the ‘Delhi Centric’ approach is over.  In 2022, the Air Force Day was celebrated at Chandigarh and the Navy Day at Visakhapatnam. In 2023, the Army Day was celebrated at Bengaluru, the Air Force Day was celebrated at Prayagraj in UP and the Navy Day was celebrated at Sindhudurg in Maharashtra.

The parade on Army Day commences with a wreath-laying ceremony by Chief of Army Staff along with others at the local War Memorial. The Army Day event, other than the ceremonial march past, includes the display of military skills and battle drills, the Army showcases the evolution and adaptation of various weapon systems and equipment held or planned for induction in the Indian Army’s inventory. In one of the recent Army Day celebrations a display of swarm drones from an Indian Start Up in simulated combat was a clear message of the futuristic trends and trajectory of the war-waging methodology.  This is yet another announcement of the Armed Forces in an era of Unrestricted and Grey Zone Warfare of their seriousness towards modernization using the Atma Nirbhar Bharat Mission route wherever feasible. During the annual military ceremony, outstanding Army units are awarded the Chief of Army Staff citations for their performance. The awards are received by the respective Commanding Officers and the Subedar Majors. Deserving Army personnel are felicitated with Gallantry awards. Posthumous awards are received by their next of kin (wife or parents), it is a touching moment for the viewers as well as for the recipients. General Manoj Pande reviewed the parade on 15 Jan 2024 at Lucknow.

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Anil Chauhan, the Chief of the Army Staff (CAS), General Manoj Pande, the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Admiral R Hari Kumar and the Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari at the National War Memorial ahead of Army Day which is celebrated on 15th January every year, in New Delhi on January 13, 2024.

How do other militaries and nations celebrate their Army or Armed Forces Days?

  • US Armed Forces Day falls annually on the third Saturday of May. President Harry S. Truman led the effort to establish a single holiday for citizens to come together and thank the nation’s actively serving military members for their patriotic service. On Aug. 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days. President John F. Kennedy officially made Armed Forces Day a national holiday in 1961. That is yet another step towards integration driven from the top.
  • Armed Forces Day in Egypt is a public holiday and is observed on October 6, celebrating the day in 1973 when combined Egyptian and Syrian militaries launched a surprise attack on their common enemy Israel on the day of Yom Kippur, a day of Jewish celebration. Identically, in 2023, HAMAS launched dastardly terrorist attacks on Israel on Oct 7, 2023, again the Yom Kippur Day. A lesson for all, never be complacent, especially on the day of celebrations.
  • The People’s Liberation Army of China celebrates its birthday on 01 August every year.
  • The UK celebrates its Armed Forces Day on the last Saturday of June.

The logic behind some countries opting for a specific date while others opt for a second or a third Saturday is specific to each civilization’s thinking. India believes in dates or tithi (sanskrit term for a specific day based on constellation position). India goes by the specific date 15 Jan.

The Army personnel are from the same societal strata that we intermingle with daily. Therefore, their approach is in the national interest and humanity. Army outreach programmes, and activities beyond pure military activities have been undertaken regularly from within its own resources and with some external help to build a better bond with civil society. Very often Army organizes mostly in remote areas health – medical Camps, Veterinary Camps, Adventure activities, Summer Camps, motorcycle or car rallies, marathon runs, mountaineering and trekking expeditions, environment awareness activities, vocational training, sports activities, educational initiatives at school and university level, national integration tours,  initiatives for special children, mentoring and guidance to technology-related projects in the innovation field, community development projects related to housing, roads, sanitation, water supply and electricity projects. The list is quite long. The selfless work done by Armed Forces has earned them respect, accolades and blessings from the nation and even the international fraternity. 

Serving in the Army is rated popularly as one of the most respected and popular vocations. Those in Olive Green uniform do highlight ‘it is not merely a profession; it is a passion’. Jai Hind is the most popular greeting – it implies ‘Victory to India’. This is the common vision shared by the youngest serving soldier-officer and the senior most Army person; the Chief of Army Staff.

Jai Hind – it is not just a form of greeting between Army personnel, it is a national vision, VICTORY TO INDIA.

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